Rain Returns to New England

Help continued pouring into the small New Hampshire (search) towns devastated by flooding during the weekend, with so many people volunteering their time, experience, equipment and food that local officials were hard-pressed to figure out where to send them all.

"We've gotten an overwhelming amount of help," Alstead Police Chief Christopher Lyons (search) said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, searchers with dogs continued looking for three Alstead (search) residents missing since Sunday. They searched along the banks of the Cold River and pulled apart debris fields of uprooted trees, cars and propane tanks.

The aid coordination was made more difficult because all the equipment the police department had to deal with such a disaster — a ham radio, two-way radios, emergency generators and other equipment — was destroyed when the police station flooded almost to the ceiling.

"All of our police records, computers, weapons ... everything that was in there is gone. It's destroyed," Lyons said.

It was raining in southwestern New Hampshire on Wednesday morning, and The National Weather Service said more flooding could be on the way if rainfall exceeded the 1 to 2 inches predicted into Thursday. Flood watches were announced for several locations into Thursday.

"More rain could bring us back to square one," Fish and Game Lt. Todd Bogardus said. "We're doing everything we can to prepare [for it]."

National Guard members helped telephone and electric crews get to homes cut off from most roads by the storm. By Wednesday morning, power was restored to more than two-thirds of the 1,500 homes and businesses in western New Hampshire that lost service.

The electric company, National Grid, expected to have most of the rest of the customers back in business on Wednesday, though it says restoration work will continue along Route 123 in Alstead, where many of the homes were heavily damaged or destroyed.

Meanwhile, Verizon reported 1,000 to 1,200 customers lost phone service in the area. The company expected to restore service to up to thirds of the customers by the end of Wednesday and most of the remaining customers on Thursday.

In Keene, nearly all of the homes and businesses that lost power during the weekend have been reconnected.

Back in Alstead, state police went door to door, checking on people's safety. The Red Cross set up disaster assistance centers on both sides of town, and Federal Emergency Management Agency damage assessment teams were expected to arrive Wednesday. Gov. John Lynch planned to meet with them.

The federal emergency declaration would get $5 million into the state immediately for such items as emergency housing, debris removal and restoration of communications.

Sally and Tim Canfields' house washed away when flood waters washed over Warren Lake dam and sent a wall of water through their property. Only a gully was left; someone had planted an American flag nearby.

Spencer Petty was last seen Sunday on the banks of the Cold River, which also flooded. The river empties into the Connecticut River, where boats also searched for bodies Tuesday. A 67-year-old kayaker, Thomas Mangieri of Antrim, was missing in the North Branch River.

A brother-in-law of Tim Canfield, Rick Mason of Claremont, used his ATV to shuttle searchers and their dogs Monday, but they didn't find any bodies, he said. The Canfields had twice declined to evacuate.

"These kids grew up here. They grew up on the river and never saw it high enough to do any damage," Mason said Tuesday.

Three deaths from the flooding were confirmed: Steven Day and Ashley Gates, a young couple who died when their SUV plunged off a washed-out bridge into a river in Unity, and William Seale, 64, of Alstead, who was found Sunday in a cornfield in Langdon.

Most routes into Alstead were still closed Tuesday, but state highway crews hoped to get a temporary bridge installed on Route 123A, greatly improving access — unless it rained hard again Wednesday, state Department of Transportation officials said.

From Friday evening through Sunday, rainstorms dumped as much as 10 inches on New England and the mid-Atlantic states. In New Hampshire, the storm dropped 10.8 inches in Hinsdale and 10.5 inches in Keene.

State emergency operations director Bruce Cheney said inspectors were checking 200 dams in the southwestern part of the state to make sure they were safe. He said crews were reinforcing the Warren Lake dam with sandbags to ensure it isn't damaged if water flows over it again.

Lynch said all state agencies "are proceeding on the assumption we're going to get heavy rains."